After Bengal District Sees Communal Clash, Mamata and Governor Slug It Out

The situation in Baduria, North 24 Parganas district is described by the police as ‘tense but under control’.

A burnt vehicle seen on the road near Baduria in North 24 Pargana district of West Bengal, where clashes broke out on the night of July 4 over what the police say was an ‘objectionable’ Facebook post. Credit: PTI

Kolkata: The public spat between chief minister Mamata Banerjee and governor Keshari Nath Tripathi on Wednesday degenerated into a bitter fight, with the Trinamool Congress accusing the governor of crossing the constitutional line and reminding him that the “Raj Bhavan cannot be the BJP’s office”.

The governor hit back, saying it would be better if the chief minister and her colleagues worked for maintaining law and order instead of targeting him. Tripathi also remarked, “It is wrong to say that the Raj Bhavan has become the office of the BJP or the RSS”.

The unprecedented face-off between the chief minister and the governor came in the aftermath of communal clashes  in West Bengal’s North 24-Parganas district on the night of July 4 following an “objectionable” Facebook post.

“Where was the administration? The state government has failed to give protection to the people and save property (in Baduria). Strong action was needed there,” CPI-M leader and MP Mohammed Salim told reporters here.

On the spat between Banerjee and Tripathi, Salim said, “Was it a personal matter? The people were not interested in the CM-governor spat when the state was burning”.

Salim accused Banerjee of “helping communal politics” and demanded that an all-party meeting be convened by the state government to deal with the situation.

The Left party’s workers would be on the streets to combat the communal forces, he added.

Baduria ‘tense but under control’

Communal clashes broke out in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district on Monday night following an “objectionable” Facebook post, prompting the government to rush in 400 BSF troopers to assist the local administration in controlling the situation.

Though there was no official confirmation about any casualties during the clashes, the incident triggered an unprecedented spat between Banerjee and Tripathi, whom she accused of acting like “a BJP block president” and “threatening” her.

According to police, the situation in and around Baduria was today “tense but under control”.

Speaking to reporters, TMC secretary-general Partha Chatterjee charged, “The governor has crossed the constitutional line. The way he spoke to the chief minister yesterday, he has forgotten that it is not Uttar Pradesh.”

Chatterjee also said that the official residence of the governor cannot be the party office of the BJP.

“He is the ex-speaker of the (UP) Assembly. As a lawyer, he must be aware of the observation of the Supreme Court (on the relation) between the chief minister and the governor…So whatever he has said is an insult to the people of West Bengal,” he charged.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee addressing a press conference at Nabanna (State Secretariat) in Kolkata on Wednesday.Credit: PTI

Chatterjee said that the party has written to President Pranab Mukherjee, stating that “this is unbecoming of a governor”.

A copy of the letter to the president was forwarded to Home Minister Rajnath Singh, he said.

Referring to the governor’s statement yesterday asking how confidential talks came out in the open, Chatterjee said, “You (Tripathi) telephoned the chief minister only after a team of BJP leaders met you at the Raj Bhavan.”

To a question on whether the TMC was demanding the governor’s removal, Chatterjee said, “If the governor does not express regret for the way he had spoken to the chief minister, we will have to take the tough stand.”

Alleging that the governor had asked the chief minister to manage her party, he remarked, “This is unprecedented. How can he ask her to manage her party members.

Has he become the BJP spokesperson? He is the constitutional head.”

Governor fires back

Dismissing Banerjee’s allegations that he humiliated and insulted her, a statement issued by the Raj Bhavan quoting the governor said that the charges were “baseless and meant only to emotionally blackmail the people of the state”.

It said that the allegations of the chief minister amounted to “insulting and humiliating the governor and his office.

Tripathi said that the Raj Bhavan was not a department of the state government and was open to every citizen for redressal of his or her grievances.

It said that the “Raj Bhavan is not expected to tear off or throw in the wastepaper basket the representations received by the Governor or his office from any person”.

“Whenever any such representation is received from anyone, the same is forwarded to the state government for appropriate action,” it said.

Taking exception to the TMC secretary-general’s statement that he was crossing his constitutional limits, Tripathi said it was an attempt to cover up the lapses of the state government and divert attention from the main issue.

“The governor is fully aware of his constitutional obligations and limitations and needs no lesson from anyone on this count,” it stated.

On Banerjee’s statement that a governor is a nominated person, Tripathi said, “True that the chief minister has been democratically elected by the people, but it should not be forgotten that the governor is also appointed by the president on the recommendation of a democratically elected Union government.

Meanwhile, Tripathi has written to President Pranab Mukherjee giving details about his phone conversation with Banerjee in the context of the Baduria violence.

According to Raj Bhavan sources, Tripathi, in his letter to the president mentioned why he had called Banerjee yesterday afternoon and details of the conversation.

Trinamool Congress had yesterday written to the president claiming that the governor had “insulted” and “humiliated” Banerjee during their phone conversation.

“Tripathi, in the letter to Mukherjee mentioned every minute details of why he had called up the chief minister and what exactly he had spoken to her during the phone call,” the source told PTI on condition of anonymity.

The governor has also written that he wanted to speak to the state DGP and when he was told that the police officer was unavailable he had called up the chief minister.

Tripathi’s letter also mentioned that he had never said anything to Banerjee which could have “humiliated” or “insulted” or “threatened” her.

In fact, the governor had suggested to the chief minister for seeking forces from the Centre, it said.

‘Majority, minority communalism feed off each other’

Left Front chairman Biman Bose(C), along with party leaders comes out of the governor’s residence in Kolkata on Wednesday after a meeting with West Bengal governor Keshari Nath Tripathi over various issues, including the violence in Baduria, North 24 Parganas district. Credit: PTI

At the national level, the CPI (M) on Wednesday alleged that the BJP and the ruling TMC were polarising the people and there was an increasing sense of lawlessness in the state.

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the party would continue to oppose the “polarisation and lawlessness”, and fight for social harmony in the state.

“Along with polarisation fed by TMC, BJP, there’s an increasing sense of lawlessness. We’ll continue to oppose both and fight for social harmony,” he tweeted.

Yechury also said that “majority communalism” and “minority fundamentalism” are threats which feed on each other and India needs to defeat them.

At the same time, the left party said that the situation prevailing in West Bengal does not call for imposition of president’s rule, but demanded immediate restoration of peace in the troubled areas of North 24-Parganas district.

West Bengal Left Front chairman Biman Bose said that by demanding President’ rule in Bengal, the BJP and the RSS were only laying bare their game plan.

“Steps should be taken to immediately restore peace in areas of North 24-Parganas district. But we don’t agree with what BJP has demanded regarding imposition of President’s rule in Bengal. The situation doesn’t call for President’s rule.

Such demands only show the game plan of BJP and RSS,” Bose told reporters.

Earlier today, BJP’s Bengal president Dilip Ghosh demanded that President’s rule be imposed in the state fortwith and that central observers be sent to assess the “worsening law and order” situation in the aftermath of communal clashes in North 24-Parganas district.

The CPI(M) had yesterday demanded that an all-party meeting be convened to chalk a strategy to contain the explosive situation.

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